'I'm desperate': Experts unpack James Charles' excuse for his teen sexting scandal

'I'm desperate': Experts unpack James Charles' excuse for his teen sexting scandal
James Charles recently apologized for messaging underage boys.Jamie McCarthy / Getty Images
  • James Charles apologized for messaging teen boys in a video titled "holding myself accountable."
  • He said he initially exchanged sexual messages with them because he was "desperate."
  • Experts weighed in on the claim in conversations with Insider.

Beauty influencer and YouTuber James Charles, 21, is currently facing allegations from multiple teens who have said he sent them sexual messages on social media when they were under the age of 18.

The popular internet personality, who has 25 million YouTube subscribers and 36 million TikTok followers, addressed two of the accusations in a video posted on April 1 titled "holding myself accountable," in which he admitted to sending messages to the boys and apologized for his "reckless" behavior and the "power dynamic" at play.

Charles said in the video that some of the boys lied about their age, but he also said that he was led to messaging them in the first place because he was "desperate."

"It sucks and it is ridiculously embarrassing to admit this, but I think I have to, and that is that I'm desperate," he said.

Charles said the idea of being in a relationship became so important to him that he was "willing to trust too quickly, miss out on red flags," and "not take the precautionary measures" that someone with a public platform should have been taking.


"There is no excuse for that," he said.

The "desperate" comment drove a lot of conversation online. Legal and psychological experts weighed in in interviews with Insider, helping unpack what to make of the explanation. Charles did not respond to Insider's request for comment.

An expert in psychology says responding to allegations with claims of desperation is a common type of excuse

According to experts who spoke to Insider, there may be psychological reasons that people explain away bad behavior with desperation.

Licensed marriage and family therapist Jason B. Whiting, PhD, said the psychological explanation for why people make excuses is that when someone is held accountable for something that's perceived as negative, there's a tendency to want to create a reason for it.

"It almost doesn't matter what the reason is, as long as it makes the perpetrator feel better about themselves," he told Insider. "One common version of an excuse is to blame the person who is making an accusation."

'I'm desperate': Experts unpack James Charles' excuse for his teen sexting scandal
James Charles with fans in LA.fupp/Bauer-Griffin / Getty Images

Charles' initial response to the boy who came forward with allegations against him in February led people to accuse him of victim-blaming. YouTuber Trisha Paytas, for example, accused Charles of placing the blame on someone else for his "grooming / predatory ways."

In a statement posted to Twitter on February 26, Charles said the boy lied about his age saying he was 18, and so he started "flirting back." In his accusations, the boy said he was 16, and pointed to other places on his social media profiles where he'd noted that was his age.

"It's now clear, based on the video he uploaded, he was taking photos of me with another device, and had an ulterior motive from the beginning," Charles wrote.

The boy, in return, said Charles had repeatedly sent him nude photos, and accused Charles of "grooming" him - building "a relationship, trust and emotional connection with a child or young person" in order to "manipulate, exploit and abuse them," according to the UK's National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children.

Whiting told Insider that there is a psychological pattern known as DARVO seen in many cases involving sexual misconduct. The acronym stands for denial, attacking the victim, and reversing the roles of victim and offender.


"So, someone who is soliciting a minor may at first deny it happened or deny they knew the age of the person," he said. "Then attack the person making the report, or their story, and then claim that they are the one being victimized by the 'false allegations.'"

Excuses can help 'numb the pain' of someone's conscience after wrongdoing

Even when the accused takes accountability of some sort, Whiting said it is also very common to create a reason to justify their behavior without realizing it.

"The important thing isn't what the excuse is, but only that an excuse exists," Whiting said. "Because its presence will numb the pain of their conscience."

Psychotherapist Beverly Engel, who works with victims of sexual, physical, and emotional abuse, told Insider the excuse of desperation could be applied to almost any action.

"We can say that about anybody, like a robber who robs a bank could say, 'Well, I was so desperate for money,'" she said. "I mean, it's really not an excuse. What it really reveals is that a person is willing to break the rules, to break the law, to get what he wants."


At the end of his video, Charles said he would be taking a break from the internet to "reflect and further educate" himself on how he may have been unintentionally "weaponizing" his fame, money, or power.

The 'desperate' comment could come back to bite Charles

Legal commentator and former LA District Attorney Emily D. Baker told Insider she believes that Charles' video has the potential of coming back to bite him.

According to Baker, a defendant saying "I'm desperate" could be used to argue that they don't think what they're doing is wrong.

Charles may have been attempting to garner sympathy around an unsuccessful romantic history he's previously been vocal about. Baker said while the "unlucky in love" trope may appeal to young fans, adults could see it as incriminating.

"The things he said in there could absolutely be used against him," she said.


It is uncertain whether any of the alleged victims are going to press charges against Charles, but multiple accusers said they have been in contact with the police. So far, no investigation by law enforcement has been confirmed.